Phil Caruso / Showtime

When The Affair Thinks About Noah, It Touches Itself

All you need to know about this episode -- and perhaps this series -- is contained in the segment in which a character reads Noah's book and is moved to self-pleasure.

Our Players

Hello, I'm Previously.TV Contributor Philip Michaels.
Hello, I'm Previously.TV Contributor Lisa Schmeiser.

The Talk

Remember the joy I felt watching Furkat and Vik match wits last week? Remember how I felt alive? I am the opposite of that now.

[inarticulate groaning]

But this episode...this episode. This is like eight pounds of shit packed in a four-pound bag. "Let's devote half the show to a character we only met recently and delve into her backstory like this is something that should engage us. Or let's return to Noah -- again -- only this time let's throw in some pain medication-fueled linear flashbacks."

[inarticulate groaning]

Everything relevant to the story -- be it plot points, character exposition, what have you -- could have been summed up in a five-minute webisode, unless the phone conversation between Madame Professor Eau So Franch and her daughter was the pick-me-up America needed, or the rest of the audience found the What Millennials Think About Consent segment from Episode 1 so compelling that it needed its own breakout session.

Phil. Stop giving them ideas.

Phil Caruso / Showtime

Phil Caruso / Showtime

Starting with Madame Professor Eau So Franch, then, since David Henry Hwang, who wrote this episode, thinks we need to: is this backstory we needed or wanted, Lisa?

Phil, did you know that Hwang was attacked like Noah Soloway was? I read online that he suffered a similar incident, and series creator Sarah Treem decided, et voilà, Season 3 material! So I feel it's necessary to say that no human being should be randomly attacked, and I'm sorry for real-life trauma. But this episode -- and this incipient plot arc -- really are bad.

Like you, I am sorry for Hwang's troubles. But this episode was...not good.

I feel like the show's entire world view can be summed up in the scene where Madame Professor Eau So Franch masturbates to Noah's book...

At length, it must be noted.

...possibly because the writing staff confused its daily brainstorming ritual with an actual scene in an episode. Seriously. It's screamingly obvious that everyone who writes for this show thinks they're being bold, edgy, and challenging by writing Noah because he's so human and so flawed and so talented, but what it really comes off as is Mary Sue fan fiction. "Oh, writer! You're so brilliant and so sexy and never wrong!"

"You are so learned! You have so much to teach us!"

"When I disagree with you, it's because I secretly want to have sex with you! I have no convictions when faced with the prospect of your approval!"

I'm trying to decide if the masturbation scene was any worse than all the mental masturbation taking place in this episode.

That entire dinner party was an argument against higher education. I also note how the writers continue to stack the deck against the ideas of female agency or female integrity, making every woman demanding, shrill, and hypocritical. I feel like someone in that room should have shouted the safe word "self-respect."

Yes, how unexpected it was that Audrey, the excessively earnest undergrad, would like to jump the line on Madame Professor Oh So Franch to join the Boning Noah Solloway Club. I'm only shocked that the male undergrads didn't fling themselves at Noah as well, since that's the craze apparently sweeping the nation. As for Madame Professor Eau So Franch, since she's apparently someone we have to pay attention to now: we find out she's married to a senile old man.

Maybe that's why she's banging undergrads before the port course.

Her whole segment reminded me of Season 2 of The Wire, when suddenly we were expected to care about Polish dockworkers. Only in that instance, the writing was good, and so we did. Here, it's just...look, lady, we've already got four other perspectives to keep track of.

Phil Caruso / Showtime

Phil Caruso / Showtime

There's always hope that next week we'll get John Gunther's perspective! I mean, everyone else who wants to bang Noah seems to warrant a segment. And the second half of this episode, which was from Noah's perspective, definitely suggests that Noah perceives the prison guard's interest in him as weirdly amorous.

Full respect to Brendan Fraser: his performance is the only thing I liked about this episode. He conveys the appropriate sense of cheerful menace, and manages to give off the not-quite-right vibe without overplaying it.

If we had more of him on the show, we'd be living in a golden age of nuance. But instead, we get Madame Professor Eau So Franch using one hand to recreate The Affair's entire approach to Noah.

So! Let's try MVP and LVP, just for consistency's sake. The MVP here is obviously Brendan Fraser for an uncommonly good performance -- though I'll add a special shout-out to the detective who unsettled Noah by fidgeting with a plastic cup. Would that we could all unsettle Noah. LVP is anyone who appeared in the first half of this episode. Please stop wasting my time with your undergraduate numbskullery.

I concur that everyone at the awful dinner party is LVP. As for MVP, I'm going to have to go with Brendan Fraser, because we live in a world where the best thing in a TV show about a priapic writer is the character who's bullying him.

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